Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Full Circle

I went to my first NASCAR race on July 4th 1984, the Firecracker 400 in Daytona Beach, Florida. I don’t remember much about the race save that we had infield camping tickets and that Richard Petty and his #43 STP Pontiac won the race. I don’t even remember what year we went to the race or if I was 8 or 9 years old. I asked my mom and she didn’t remember the year either, just that “The King” won. With little help from Wikipedia I was able to find out that Richard Petty won the 1984 Firecracker 400 so I was 8 when I saw my first NASCAR race live.

My family ended up spending a total of five Fourth of July weekends making the trip up the Florida coast to watch the Firecracker 400. I remember the last race much more than the first race for two reasons. My mom’s favorite driver, Bill Elliot, won but also the race wasn’t actually held on the 4th of July. We celebrated Independence Day and set off fireworks at home that year since the race was on July 2nd. My parent’s enthusiasm for racing combined with actually going to a few races has made me a NASCAR fan since my youth. From Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty to Dale Earnhardt and Bill Elliot to Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson I’ve enjoyed spending the last 25 years watching cars go fast and turn left.

An even greater passion of mine is collecting cards. My grandfather turned my brother and I into sports cards collectors. My grandfather had given me a Dale Murphy card, when Dale was the reigning National League MVP. That card mixed with TBS broadcasting (RIP Skip Caray) every game is what made me a die hard Atlanta Braves fan. I eventually moved from sports cards to trading card games. I was fortunate enough to get a job in the trading card industry almost seven years ago.

I started at Press Pass in early 2005 to help form the trading card game division. While I’d worked in the trading card industry for a few years before Press Pass, my previous company didn’t have any sports products. As much as I enjoy TCGs I am a much bigger sports fan than a TCG fan. Press Pass was my first chance to start mixing my childhood passions. Although I worked for Press Pass, my efforts were focused on making the TCG division successful. I didn’t get to spend near enough time working with the NASCAR or football product teams for my liking. I’m a sports fan - what fun is working for a sports-licensed company and not working on the sports products!

All of that changed this past April when I moved into the customer service/sales department. Now I get to be involved, at least a little bit, in every product that Press Pass produces. My racing passion might have faded some over the years, at least compared to baseball or football, but I do still remember being that 8 or 9 year old trying to stay cool in the Florida heat at infield at Daytona International Speedway while watching cars zoom by. Seeing some of the great NASCAR products from beginning to end brought back my racing enthusiasm pretty quickly.

Since moving over in April the first product I’ve seen from the very beginning was Press Pass VIP 2008. Even though we aren’t directly part of the product team, a member of CS/Sales takes part in the product meetings for each product and VIP 2008 was my first NASCAR product. I got to see early card rosters, autograph mock-ups, designs, and possible memorabilia pieces. Every year VIP is one of our best products and it was great that I was able to take part in the process from early planning to the logistics involved in making sure fans can get their cards on the release date.

Not everyone gets to relive a childhood passion in their job almost 25 years later. Being more involved with NASCAR really has certainly made following racing more exciting. I try and watch at least some of every race. I even repaid the 24-year-old favor to my dad and took him to the Coca-Cola 600 here in Charlotte this past May. VIP 2008 releases next week and I couldn’t be more excited. I hope you join me next week in opening a few packs looking for that Triple Grip or the Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMP Four Wide.


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